This article was originally published in Worship Leader magazine (May 2006). For more great articles like this one, subscribe today.
I was looking back at my 16 years as worship leader at my church, Christian Assembly, and realized that on at least 200 different occasions I have had the privilege of teaching my congregation a new worship song. Through these many years I have found that the way you go about teaching a song can have a lot to do with how the song will be received.
The first thing I have learned along the way is that if you’re going to teach a song with even a little bit of detail you’ll have to let go of your need to be overly spiritual. As worship leaders we are often so afraid of grieving the Spirit or ruining a God moment that we can be overly spiritual or religious. This is understandable because it’s part of our gifting to want to create an atmosphere where God can work. But we must learn that teaching is really a different dynamic than leading. When teaching something new, you must step out in boldness and create an atmosphere of anticipation and joy.
When I’m going to teach a song, especially if it’s a more difficult one, I’ll just stop and tell the congregation, “Alright everybody, we’re going to take a few minutes and go to worship school. We’re going to learn a new song.” I try to break the ice and have some fun with it. I give a brief explanation of what the song is about and then begin teaching it section by section without the band. This way the congregation can clearly hear it in its raw form. Then I’ll repeat the verse over and over until I feel like they have it. Teaching songs is a great way to build rapport with your people and remind them that you’re not there to sing to them, but only to inspire them to be the worship choir and ultimately glorify and connect with God.
Keep singing the song for the next few weeks. This will help them really own it. As creative people, we must remember that we get bored easy. Don’t teach another song too soon. Don’t give up on the last one too soon. Slow down and let the response that your congregation is giving be your creative guide.
Creativity is a must, and teaching new songs will give you something fresh to look forward to and will help keep the river of creative life, given to us by our Creator, alive in our churches.
Tommy Walker has led at Christian Assembly Foursquare Church in Los Angeles, CA, for over 14 years. Tommy has written over 100 songs that are sung in churches around the world, including “He Knows My Name,” “That’s Why We Praise Him,” and “I Have a Hope.”